Tracking Updates

I haven’t written about tracking in a while. We have been working on it though.

Over the past month, we have been tracking a few times a week.

Rogue is doing really, really well. Her work ethic is amazing and her focus is beautiful. We have been concentrating on urban because I have been hoping to test this spring. We got into the London test, which is this weekend. I am nervous about it, not because I think she isn’t ready, but it is supposed to get really hot this weekend. I think the temperature is supposed to be 30 degrees Celsius on Sunday and there is a risk of thunderstorms.

I am crossing my fingers for good conditions though. This will be our third attempt. I am hoping third time will be the charm. 🙂

Arizona is progressing well. Her focus and work ethic is improving every time we track. I think we need to start making her tracks a bit longer and begin adding in new elements like pavement, so she won’t get too used to the ‘easier’ stuff.

Canyon is still struggling a bit with the concept of tracking, but he is learning. Huib has been handling him for now, as it’s easier for him to help Canyon when necessary. Once he gets the concept, I will take over as his handler. I think he enjoys tracking, especially because he gets to find ‘toys’ along the way, also known as ‘articles.’

Once we get past this weekend, we will move over to field tracking. There aren’t really anymore tests until the fall, so we will have a lot of time to do some field tracking with a bit of urban mixed in.

I really, really hope Rogue passes on Sunday!!

Adventures in Running: Race Day

I did it. I did my first, and definitely not my last, 10 kilometre race!!

Saturday morning, Rogue, Huib and I travelled to Ottawa. We arrived around noon.

Jess met us outside of her place, so we could go run a few errands. First, we went to the Running Room to grab some clothes and energy gels. I got a black t-shirt and black shorts, while Jess got a purple tank top, purple and black shorts, and some colourful socks. I’m glad Jess convinced me to grab some clothes because when I went to get dressed, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my running pants and jacket, lol!!

After the Running Room, we went to Critter Jungle for some dog stuff. I bought Rogue and Nala each a cool vegetarian treat that was in the shape of a dinosaur. Jess bought Arizona and Canyon a really cool bacon flavoured Nylabone-like wishbone shaped toy for their birthdays (Ari’s was on the 17th and Candy’s is on the 3rd). I suggested she buy it for the two of them to share because it was expensive and they are competitive, so having to share a toy would make it an even cooler one. They love it!!

Nala turned six yesterday, so Jess bought her a ChuckIt! launcher and some tennis balls. She also got her little dogs some cool chews for when her and Nala have to leave them home alone.

Around 6:00pm, we set off for Ottawa City Hall to meet up with our guides. Rogue and Nala hung out with Huib while we were running.

It was really busy, so Huib had Jason hold onto him, while Rogue and Nala guided Jess and I through the crowds. The girls were fabulous!! As it got more congested, Jess gave me her tether to hold, so that we would not lose one another. Nala is longer than Rogue, so even though her and Jess were walking behind us, she was able to walk beside me on the right, so her and Rogue could make room for us to move through the people. I was pretty darn proud of the two of them!!

It took a bit for our guides to find us, but once they did, we gave Huib our girls and then set off for the starting line.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the four of us were all wearing tutus. I wore a royal blue one, Jess had a purple one, my guide had a black one that lit up and Jess’ guide wore a lime green one. My guide also wore a batman t-shirt, so he looked pretty cool!!

When the race began, they had us all start at different times because there were thousands of racers and we all ran different speeds. To make things less crazy, they organized people into different groups based on the estimated time you thought you would take to complete the race. I tend to take about ten minutes per kilometre, so we were near the back of the pack.

Jess and her guide were doing the race to support me, so they stayed behind us. They sang, danced and had me laughing the whole way. I honestly never thought running could be so much fun!!

Jess’ guide had us working at a pretty constant pace that we maintained most of the way. I think we completed the first half of the race in 45 minutes, which would be about nine minutes a kilometre.

Around kilometre six, I began to lose energy, so Jess gave me an espresso gel. It kicked in at about kilometre number eight, allowing me to finish the race with energy to spare.

In the end, we did 10 kilometres in one hour and thirty-two minutes. This is about eight minutes faster than my usual time, so I was pretty excited!!

Thank you Jess, for motivating me to try running and for helping me train.

Thank you Huib, for cheering me on and for helping me with my treadmill workouts.

Thank you D, for the dedication and for being an amazing guide.

Thank you to my race guide, for keeping me safe and entertained.

Finally, thank you Team Tutu!! You guys were the best race partners ever!! I have never laughed so hard.

Now, I need to set a new goal…

More Water

This week’s field class involved some more water work.

We started the evening in one of Susie’s shallower ponds. Arizona wasn’t too sure about getting in, but with some extra encouragement, she did it!! She swam right to the duck, came straight back and held it firmly until I said “give.”

The second attempt went better, only a slight hesitation – GOOD GIRL!!!

When Ari was done, we took her back to the car because the mosquitoes were pretty bad. We forgot to put repellent on her and us. Huib found the dogs’ herbal mosquito and tick repellent in the field gear bag, but ours was missing, so we decided to try out theirs. It works surprisingly well, and doesn’t smell bad either. I think we’ll keep using it for now.

*****

With Canyon’s seizures, we have to be really careful about the stuff we put on him, as well as what we use around him, so we try to use herbal stuff when possible. There are tick preventatives for dogs, but all of them have been found to have pretty nasty side effects for dogs with seizures, so we have chosen to avoid using them with everyone. Instead, they get Revolution monthly (prevents heartworm, fleas, some ticks and some other parasites), and we have them tested each spring for heartworm and tick-borne diseases, such as lyme.

*****

After all of the dogs – 5 labs and 2 goldens (including Ari) – had their turn, we packed up the gear and moved over to a deeper pond.

Arizona had more trouble with this one. It took a lot of encouragement to get her to jump in, but again, once she was in, she was perfect!!

Her second attempt was a little worse. It might have just been because she had to go to the washroom, but when I sent her, she went to the edge of the pond, walked around a bit, then walked away and relieved herself closer to the trees. When she finished, I called her back, got her set up, and sent her for the duck. She barely hesitated before jumping in.

I am hoping that as we introduce different ponds, she’ll continue to feel more comfortable.

But, like everything else we do, we aren’t in a rush, so she can take her time getting used to things.

Look Who’s Three!!!

Today is a very special day for Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

Arizona is now three years old!!

A lot has happened in the almost three years of having her in our lives.

We have had a lot of ups and downs together, but no matter what, she can always make us laugh.

Despite having to endure almost a full month of Arizona screaming while crated, I still do not regret having her join our family.

Ari is the craziest, most loving and highly entertaining golden girl we know!!

She has taught us tons, and we hope she has learned at least something from us.

No matter what happens during a class, or at a test, we always know Arizona is going to make the experience fun!!

Airy Berry, please don’t ever stop being you!!

HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!!!

Too Cold

Today’s field class was in the water.

Arizona wasn’t so sure she wanted to go in…

It took a lot of convincing, both from us and the gunners…

Once in, she went straight for the duck, then swam right back to me. She came out of the water, dropped the duck at my feet, and waited. I asked her to sit, but she refused, so after a few requests, she finally did. Then I asked her to shake, blowing in her face, before asking her to sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Then, we did it all again.

It took even more convincing the second time to get her to go into the pond. I wonder if she felt it was too cold.

Once in, she went to the duck, came right back and handed it to me – Good Girl!! I took the duck, asked her to sit, then shake, and sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Now that the warmer weather has arrived, Huib and I are going to try and get Ari swimming at least a few times a week.

Despite hesitating to go into the water, Arizona showed a lot of progress. Unlike previous years, she didn’t refuse to retrieve the duck or to bring it right back. So we’ll definitely call this a WIN!!

More Field

Sorry for the lack of entries, but life got a bit busy.

Field class continues to be going well for Arizona. Other than some minor issues during an indoor class, she has been rocking the retrieves.

We have had a lot of rain, so a few weeks ago, we had an indoor class. There were about six dogs present. Susie had us begin by walking our dogs around the room at the same time. Ari was really excited at first, but after a couple of laps, she calmed down and I had her walking really nicely. She had no problems passing the flat-coats or the lab, but every time we passed a toller, she wanted to play, lol!!

After a bit, we were each given a couple of bumpers to practice the retrieve and ‘hold’ with our dogs. Arizona was really distracted at first, but then became unsure. There were some dogs barking and some owners being a bit more firm with their dogs, so I think it made her nervous.

After talking to a couple of other friends who use mainly positive reinforcement with their dogs, I think her reaction was a side effect of our training choices. All of us have noticed similar behaviours in our dogs, they all seem a bit more sensitive to seeing or hearing other dogs disciplined. It’s not that we do not discipline our dogs, it’s that we do it in a less harsh manner.

Once we figured out she was nervous, we stoped trying to get her to take the bumper, and just sat on the floor with her, letting her observe everyone else. After about 15 minutes, I did some level 1 behaviours with her, to get her back “into the game,” and offered the bumper. She took it!!

Susie then had us all line up and send our dogs one at a time to retrieve a duck. Arizona was great!!

Arizona is fine at shows and other dog events, so we aren’t sure if it would be worthwhile signing her up for an actual indoor group class, but we are considering it.

The temperatures continue to be on the cooler side, so we haven’t been able to do any water work yet. Arizona is rocking the land retrieves though.

While we wait for things to warm up, I am working on lengthening her ‘hold,’ and making sure she gets an opportunity to retrieve a variety of ducks. This week, she retrieved two very smelly, squishy ducks. I so badly wanted to refuse to take them, but obviously I had to pretend she was giving me the best gift ever, lol!!

If she continues to retrieve like this, then I think we are going to have a really good field season.

Biking

Last fall, Huib bought a bike, and then several months ago, he got an attachment for the dogs. A few weeks ago, he got the bike out and started teaching the dogs to run alongside him.

The first couple times he took them out, it was slightly warm, so he did not take Canyon out as long as the girls. With his seizures, Canyon runs the risk of heat stroke, even when the temperature is just over 20 degrees celsius.

Of the three, Arizona loves it the most. Huib usually goes about four kilometres with her. He says nothing seems to distract her, that no matter what they pass, she just continues going straight ahead. I think she loves the speed.

Canyon only tends to go about 1.5 kilometres. Unlike Arizona, Canyon thinks he needs to pull the bike, so Huib is finding it more difficult to adjust speeds with him. As they work together, he’s getting better, so hopefully he’ll stop being a pain soon.

Rogue usually goes for two kilometres or so. The first few times they were out, she kept pulling further away from the bike. I think she thought it was going to eat her, lol!! The last time they were out, Huib said she did a lot better, so I think he’ll probably start going further with her as well.

Guelph is a very hilly city, so poor Huib is pretty tired once he’s taken the three dogs out. They all seem to really like it though, so I think he’s going to try and get them out at least a few times a week.

Field Class

Arizona had her first field lesson of the season and it went GREAT!!

We have been working all winter on her ‘hold’ and on ‘delivering to hand,’ but we have not done any work with ducks since the fall.

There were about eight dogs, including Arizona and Canyon, who came to class. There were: 2 flat-coated retrievers, 3 duck tolling retrievers, a lab and our 2 golden retrievers.

Canyon was our muscle. We didn’t know how driven Ari would be to retrieve ducks, so we brought Canyon to encourage her. They are very competitive with one another, so he does a great job of motivating her to cooperate.

Since there were several new dogs, Susie had them all start by retrieving a bumper from a short distance. Arizona was all over this!!

The dogs then had to retrieve a bumper from a farther distance. “No problem!” says Ari.

Finally, Susie got out the ducks and had us all practice with our own dog.

I worked with Arizona, while Huib tossed the duck from a variety of distances. Arizona was freaking awesome!! Other than me fumbling and dropping one duck, she handed every single one to me.

After several tosses, we put Ari into her crate and got out Canyon. With his seizures he cannot do any of the water work, so he loves when we let him play.

Unfortunately, he was a bit of a pain in my butt and instead of handing me the duck, he’d come close, then turn and lie down to start mouthing it – bad boy!! I guess we need to work on this.

If this is any indication of how Arizona will do in field this year…I’m getting pretty excited.

Working Dog Conference: Calgary

Around 3:30am Friday, we woke up and began to get ready to head to the airport. Our luggage was packed, we just needed to add our toiletries after we were dressed. Once they were in, we secured the suitcases with zip ties and Huib put them in the car. While he was putting stuff into the car, I got the last of the stuff into a bag for the goldens to take to Mandi’s house, and double-checked that I had everything for Rogue.

We didn’t want anyone to have an accident before Dad woke up, so we left him food for everyone. Mandi was coming to get the goldens in the afternoon, so he just had to worry about them until she arrived.

Our trip to the airport was uneventful. We parked the car in a Park and Fly lot, then took a shuttle over to the terminal. We were glad we arrived on the early side because the baggage check-in line was really slow moving. At the front, they weighed our bags and then asked us to wait, so they could make sure the next people knew a service dog was coming. I’m not sure why they felt this was needed, but we had time to spare, so it wasn’t a big deal.

At security, I asked Rogue to sit and then I walked through. Huib planned to go after me, so that Rogue wouldn’t be worried about me leaving her behind. It worked out great. I thought they would ask me to take everything off her, but it didn’t happen, so when I called her through, she came running with her leash dragging behind.

We still had an hour or so to kill before we would be boarding, so we had some breakfast at Tim Hortons.

About 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off, they began to board everyone. We were in zone five, or about the middle of the plane, so we got in line. Rogue was a complete professional about it all. She patiently waited beside me and then once we were on the plane and I removed her handle, she curled up for a nap. She woke up a bit when we first took off, but once she knew there was nothing to worry about, she fell back asleep.

I read through my presentation notes a couple of times during the first part of the flight, then fell asleep for a bit. I think even Huib slept some.

Once we began descending, Rogue woke up, so I gave her some treats. When it was time to get off the plane, she walked nicely at my side.

At the baggage area, we waited a short time for our suitcases. While waiting, they announced that a person’s carry-on had been mistakenly taken by another passenger. It was a black bag, so probably an honest mistake, but who knows because they were still making the announcement as we left the airport.

We got a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We planned to see if we could drop the bags off, so we wouldn’t have to drag them around the city while we waited for our room, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could check-in. The hotel had a room available on our floor, they assign all dogs to one floor, so they gave us an upgrade and we got a suite for two days!!

The room was great!! We had a small kitchenette with a sink, counter, table with chairs, a bar fridge and a microwave, a decent size living room with a TV, love seat and two chairs, then a bedroom with a king-size bed and a small bathroom. I thought it might be good to relax a bit before we went walking and for lunch, so we all settled in the living room. I read through my notes until I fell asleep, while Huib watched a bit of TV and dosed and Rogue slept on my legs and then in one of the chairs.

We walked for about three hours!! We checked out the mall and bought a few things. We walked the streets and along the pedestrian paths, stopping to take pictures in front of statues and to check out various stores. There were a lot of ‘interesting’ people along the way.

There was a woman walking along carrying her pants and shoes. I asked Huib if maybe he should stop and ask if she needed help, but he explained that there was another woman who appeared to be trying to help her. I guess he was right, because a bit later, we walked by them and she had helped the woman get dressed and was trying to convince her to come somewhere. At another spot, we passed a man loudly talking on his cell. It’s always funny to enter a conversation part way through. As we were passing, he said: “she got canned today too!!” Finally, there was another man talking on his phone, and as we passed by he was complaining to whoever he was talking to about the fact that he had been cut down to “just a pound and a half of medical marijuana.”

We then went back to the hotel for an hour to relax and drop our purchases off.

In the evening, we went for another walk. This time, we walked by the Bow River. It is a really nice spot to walk.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 8:30am. The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so we got dressed and went down for food. It was a pretty good buffet. We had eggs, potatoes, grapefruit, orange juice and coffee. I had a croissant and Huib had a waffle. When we got back upstairs, Huib surprised Rogue with a couple of sausages to add to her pork rib breakfast.

I still needed to memorize my conference notes, so we spent a bit of time in the room before we went touring. We walked around Bow River, checking out the island in the middle. They created a really nice park on the island, with pedestrian bridges crossing over to it, so we walked around most of it. We also checked out some more stores. I almost bought a jacket for running, but it was only $20 off, so we decided to just wait because it was also on the bigger side.

For our last night in Calgary, we decided to go for a little bit of a fancy dinner. We walked around for over an hour and a half trying to decide where we wanted to eat, but there were too many options. Finally, we chose a place called The Gild. This place had caught our eye earlier that day because they had whole pig parts hanging in glass sided fridges to age. We thought it looked pretty interesting.

On the menu outside it listed meals from $40 to over $100. Once inside, we learned that the majority of the choices over $100 were meant to be shared, so I guess that actually isn’t too bad. When Huib read those options, he learned that they were 85% protein, so you got small sides and then a ridiculously huge portion of beef or something else.

I chose an applewood smoked half chicken meal that came with a cool poutine like side and grilled veggies. It was fries with chicken gravy, peas, shredded chicken and cheese – very yummy!! I also had a mimosa, a drink that contains champaign and orange juice.

Even though Alberta only recognizes program-trained service dogs, I did not get asked once about Rogue. The only comments I got were about how well-behaved and good looking she is.

Calgary is a pretty neat city. I think I would like to go back some day to see more of it.

This and That

It has been a great weekend for tracking. The weather has been a bit icky, but Rogue, Canyon and Arizona don’t seem to have noticed.

Saturday afternoon we got together with Laura and Annie at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Annie hopes to do a test with Trixie and Maestro mid-May, so Laura wanted to get them into the fields. Since Canyon is learning and Arizona needs the practice, Laura invited us to come out as well.

Rogue absolutely loves tracking, so I couldn’t leave her out.

Canyon had a pretty rough tracking experience last week, so I suggested Huib handle him. Huib is able to see what he’s doing and Canyon isn’t as protective of him, so I thought we should try switching for a bit. We don’t know if it was the seizures last weekend, or the handling change this week, but Canyon did a fabulous job!!

I asked Huib what he does differently, and he said the only thing he can think of, is that he keeps Canyon close. He doesn’t give him as much line as I do. Next week, I will try it out and see if it makes a difference.

Arizona was next. Other than missing an article in a highly mousey area, she did a great job. She got a bit distracted in a couple of spots, but Huib was easily able to redirect her attention back to the track. Laura says she has really matured since November.

Rogue was the last to track. Like Arizona, she missed one article, but did the rest beautifully. Rogue’s missed article was covered with snow. It has been over four months since she last tracked in a field, so I was really happy with her work.

This morning we did some urban tracking with just the girls. College Royal is on at the U of G, so Laura had us all (Mary, Kay and John) meet at a high school.

Arizona was first. I don’t think she did anything wrong – way to go baby girl!!!

Even though she needs to earn her TD before she can try for her UTD, I want to keep her working on urban stuff. Arizona is a dog of habit, so if we focus on one thing too much, it becomes difficult to switch over to something different afterwards. That is why we try to always add new aspects to everything she learns, while continuing to practice stuff she knows.

Rogue was the last dog to work. After two consecutive weeks of mistakes, I had my fingers crossed for a good showing – she did not let me down!! She found all of her articles, stayed quite close to the track and found all of her corners. She went the wrong direction once, but only went a metre before stopping and letting me know we needed to go the other way.

I am still on the fence about entering the April UTD test, so we’ll wait and see how she does next weekend.

Canyon joined us, but he did not track. I think it can be easy to overwhelm a dog with new things, so I thought he might retain his lessons better if he doesn’t do consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s true, but maybe by not getting to work every time the others do, his drive will also increase.

I am SO glad the dogs had a good tracking weekend. It can be really discouraging to have several poor outings in a row.